How to prepare for a major competition: An interview with Colin Tang

With the Malaysia Regional Championship just weeks away, we reached out to fellow Team Rainbow Wing member Colin Tang to give us his insights on how to prepare for a major competition. Colin, a 2018 World Championship player, is last season’s Perth Regionals Champion and has placed high in recent major competitions with a current tally of 594 Championship Points (CP). 

Achievements:

Perth Regionals 2017/2018 – Champion
Singapore SPE 2017/2018 – Top8
Oceania IC 2018/2019 – Top64
Perth Regionals 2018/2019 – Top4
Jakarta SPE 2018/2019 – Top16+
Manila SPE 2018/2019 – Top4

Could you tell us a little bit about your performance last season? 

It was an amazing experience! I just started playing the Pokémon TCG again in the 2017/2018 Season. I used to play back back in the Base set up till Neo Series, but I was still relatively new to this game.

Last season was my first taste of competitive Pokémon TCG — I won the Perth Regionals, Top8 the Singapore SPE and also attended Day 1 in Worlds. It was quite an up and down performance last season as I had to find my footing in the Pokémon TCG world (i.e CP system, stipends etc). The best part though was being able to meet top competitive players such as Clifton, Henry Brand, Tait, etc. 

How did you prepare for the beginning of the new season?

I started by the following:

  • Early discussions and analysis of potential meta decks
  • Specific playtest sessions (targeting deck strengths)
  • Reading up articles on competitive websites / matchup analysis on Heyfonte
  • Planning ahead my schedule for travel

Most importantly, never be shy to seek out for help and advice. There are many more better players out there. I do speak to players in the Region such as Shane Chee, Clifton, Malik, Syahmi, and Yee Wei to name a few, on obtaining insights to brainstorming deck ideas / deck techs and advice. Solid deck advice and ideas are key to preparing yourself for these major tournaments.

In Oceania, when Team Up was first legal, you decided to bring BuzzRocTales and managed a Top64 place. What was your mindset heading into this tournament and why did you choose this unorthodox deck choice (compared to selecting more meta decks like Ultra Necrozma-GX and Pikachu & Zekrom-GX)?

BuzzRocTales was my most comfortable deck. I’ve been playing with BuzzRoc type of decks since Perth the year before and I’ve got a sense of familiarity with how this deck fares against the meta.

Oceania was the first major event incorporating the new Team Up Set. As such, my prediction was that we would see a great number of Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, Ultra Necrozma-GX and Lycanroc-GX/Zoroark-GX decks in Oceania. As this would be the first event, I predicted that people will tend to stick to a more comfortable deck choice (as compared to picking up the new decks). 

I was correct in that sense as there was a huge number of Malamar players in Oceania (although I only managed to meet one in my win-and-in). One of my deck’s tougher matchups is a Zapdos variant – the deck requires an early Muk lock to be able to control the tempo of the game. 

Otherwise, BuzzRocTales is an amazing deck to bring up against Malamar / Zoro Variants. This deck’s main aim is to be able to spread damage accordingly, then in the later game you would try to put up larger attackers such as Buzzwole with Beast rings activated.

My two losses were a Zapdos Shrine (one of it was Daniel Altavilla) and a Lost March Deck that went out of hand in T1/T2 itself.

Moving onto Perth, what made you switch to Lightning Box? (and how do you make the right “meta” call?)

+2 Choice Band, 3 Escape Board, 10 Lightning Energy

In Perth, I would guess players would already have a better understanding of the Team Up deck variants (as there were several other major events worldwide leading up till Perth). I expected a bigger variety of Pikachu & Zekrom-GX decks, Ultra Necrozma-GX, Lycanroc-GX/Zoroark-GX and stall variants. 

I wanted to bring a deck that would be able to handle a variety of situations:

  • Three Zapdos for the one prize game race against Shrine of Punishment variants,
  • Jolteon-GX against stall decks / Zapdos decks
  • Pikachu & Zekrom-GX for games where I can capitalise on a board state lock down using Tag Bolt GX

As such, I favoured a heaver Volkner line compared to a Lillie build — most of the time the deck would just require a specific Item to be played in each Turn. However, I have to add that this deck had some consistency issues due to a one card Pokémon line for most of the attackers besides Zapdos. Any critical card prized would be an issue.

Following from there, how did your Lightning Box become the Jolteon-GX/Zapdos combination in Jakarta, and it’s present iteration in Manila?

+2 Escape Board, 9 Lightning Energy

As the meta continued to shift towards a more Lightning heavy variant (Zapdos variants, Pikachu & Zekrom-GX etc and Ultra Necrozma-GX) in the SEA region, I needed a really consistent deck. 

The current deck I made for Jolteon-GX includes 3-3 lines of Jirachi (Team Up) and 2-2 Jolteon-GX with a heavy Volkner count (I still favour this over Lillie). This would increase the odds of consistently streaming attackers and the flexibility of switching strategies. The deck is able to play on a different levels of tempo and works well in the early game up till the late game board set up.

How do you practice? How do you choose the right opponents to practice with?

I usually start by understanding the type of matchups I would like to test against. Like for Manila, I tested against a Lycanroc-GX/Zoroark-GX deck archetype and it paid off — I matched and went 2-0 against 2 Lycanroc-GX/Zoroark-GX matchups (thanks Malik!). So my analysis was:

1. Test against common expected matchups.

2. Test against decks you are weak against (however, some decks do take an autoloss to certain matchups. I tend to just ignore testing those matchups).

3. Test your deck to the point you have a great understanding of what it can or cant do – and subsequently make decisions that would max out your outs / plays methodologically. This is the most important point. 

I do attend casual leagues few times on weekday nights / weekends to be able to test out against a wider pool of decks. 

What is the right deck choice of deck for the upcoming Malaysia Regionals?

My best advice is deck consistency. There are just too many different deck variants to expect for the Malaysia Regionals. You do not also want to tech too heavily for certain matchups that you may or may not face.

As for the deck I’ll be bringing — I’ll leave it up for you to guess which deck I’ll be bringing next 😉

What’s your biggest advice for Pokemon TCG players?

1. Consistently playtest, understand and improve your gameplay.
2. Continuously ask for advice from better players, never be shy!
3. Stay humble, there’s always ups and downs in this game. Newer or other emerging players will someday surpass you.
4. Have fun! Most players forget that this is a game. It’s meant to be enjoyed!

The Malaysia Regional Championships 2019 is happening on 11 and 12 May 2019 — See you there!


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